The hidden costs of employee drinking: A quantitative analysis

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2019 Jul;38(5):543-553. doi: 10.1111/dar.12935. Epub 2019 Jun 6.


Introduction and aims: Alcohol use impacts workplace productivity in terms of absence and reduced performance by employees. This study's aims were to estimate the cost of lost productivity associated with alcohol use in New Zealand and to describe and quantify its impact on employers.

Design and methods: An online survey was completed by 800 New Zealand employees and 227 employers across a range of industries. The costs of lost productivity directly attributable to alcohol use were estimated using days off work (absenteeism), lost hours of productive time while at work (presenteeism) and hours spent by employers dealing with alcohol-related issues. Ordinal logistic regression was used to explore the association between employee characteristics and reduced workplace productivity associated with alcohol consumption.

Results: The estimated annual average cost of lost productivity per employee was NZ$1097.71 (NZ$209.62 absenteeism, NZ$888.09 presenteeism) and NZ$134.62 per employer. At a population level this equates to approximately NZ$1.65 billion per year. The significant predictors of reduced workplace performance were being younger (less than 25 years), male, having a stressful job and drinking more than the recommended standard number of drinks per session.

Discussion and conclusions: Considering absenteeism costs alone will substantially underestimate the total productivity loss associated with alcohol use. Designing and effectively targeting a set of multifaceted policies to engineer change at both the workplace and societal levels will assist in reducing the costs of lost productivity.

Keywords: absenteeism; alcohol; presenteeism; productivity; workplace.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Alcohol Drinking / economics*
  • Efficiency*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand
  • Presenteeism / economics*
  • Sex Factors
  • Workplace / economics*
  • Young Adult